QU Men's Basketball Advances To MAAC Semifinals With 89-80 Win Over Niagara

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Shaq Shannon totaled a career-best 20 points to lead No. 3-seeded Quinnipiac men's basketball team to an 89-80 win over No. 11-seeded Niagara in the 2014 MAAC Basketball Championship Tournament Semifinals at the MassMutual Center on Saturday night. Quinnipiac, now 20-10 overall, advances to the semifinals to face No. 2-seeded Manhattan College tomorrow, Sunday, March 10, at 7 p.m. live on ESPN3.

The win was monumental for the Bobcats as they returned to their winning ways after a two-game skid to close out the regular season. Quinnipiac's 20-win season is the third in its last five years.

Shannon scored 12 of his 20 points in the first half – a career-half high for the senior guard. Shannon converted on 7-of-9 from the floor, including a season-high 4-of-5 from three-point range. The Bobcats received double-digit performances from all five of its starters, headlined by Ousmane Drame's (Boston, Mass.) 14th double-double of the season. Drame finished with 15 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.) had 18 points and six rebounds with Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) grabbing 15 points, including a 6-for-6 night from the free-throw line. Evan Conti (Bayside, N.Y.) had 12 points as well as a game-high six assists.

Scoring 80 points in a game has proven to work wonders for the Bobcats, and Saturday night wasn't any different. Quinnipiac improved to 16-0 when scoring 80 or more points this year. The Bobcats were extremely efficient with the ball, shooting a season-best 58.2 percent from the floor. Drame and Azotam combined to go 14-of-25 for the game en route to a 42-32 edge in the paint.

Both teams traded hoop over the first six-plus minutes of the game before Niagara rattled off nine unanswered to take a 23-13 lead with 10:56 to play in the first half. Quinnipiac tied the game, 26-26, with 6:18 to play in the first frame with a 13-3 run. After Niagara regained the lead, 31-28, on a Marvin Jordan three-pointer, Shannon knocked down back-to-back three-pointers on consecutive possessions before Conti nailed a mid-range jumper to give Quinnipiac a 36-31 lead with 1:28 to play before the half. Niagara's Antoine Mason countered with a lay-up and a free throw after being fouled and Cameron Fowler tied the game at 36-36 on a lay-up. Kasim Chandler (Newark, N.J.) gave Quinnipiac the lead at halftime with a lay-up with twenty seconds to go.

Coming out of the break, Quinnipiac and Niagara traded hoops, with the Bobcats clinging to a 61-55 lead on a jumper by Justin Harris (Paterson, N.J.). After a pair of free throws by Wesley Myers pulled Niagara within four points, Quinnipiac blew the game open with a 13-2 run to take a 74-59 lead with 6:43 to play. Niagara responded with a 14-5 run, powered by eight points from Mason, as they pulled within six points, 82-76, with 51-seconds to play. At that point, Quinnipiac had reached the bonus and converted on 8-of-11 down the stretch to hold on for the 89-80 win.

The Bobcats were once-again dominant on the boards, outrebounding Niagara, 42-29. Long-range shooting also aided Quinnipiac offensive surge, connecting on 8-of-13 attempts on the night.

For Niagara, Mason had a game-high 28 points, while Jordan and Myers finished with 15 and 14, respectively. The Purple Eagles conclude the season with a 7-26 record.

Prior to Quinnipiac's win, three of the other top four seeds earned a spot in the semifinals. No. 1-seeded Iona takes on No. 4-seeded Canisius in the first semifinal at 4:30 p.m.

Fans interested in purchasing tickets for the MAAC Semifinals can visit the MAAC Championship page on www.ticketmaster.com.

Student-Athletes, parents and fans can download the 2013-14 QU Athletics schedules to your laptop and mobile devices for free by clicking in the iCalendar link at the bottom of each sport's homepage or the master schedule page. Fans can also follow Quinnipiac Athletics on Facebook and Twitter (@QUAthletics) for all of the latest news and updates.